On July 23, 2015 I had the pleasure of appearing on Chicago Newsroom with Ken Davis as he covered the latest news on Chicago Public Schools. We discussed the superior performance of public schools over charters, principals organizing and speaking out against charter school expansion, the loss of half of CPS’s African American teachers, the importance of skilled and knowledgeable teachers, and corruption in CPS and City Hall that takes resources from schools and funnels it to well-connected bankers and investors. The link is below, along with a few excerpts from the show.
On Charter vs. Public School performance
Students in Public Schools learn more than students in Charter schools. We have to look at the process by which kids are brought into Charter schools. Parents have to go through a laborious process to enter a student into a charter lottery. As a result, a student can’t get into a charter school unless he or she has one thing that is a strong indicator of higher academic performance–an involved parent. So when you look at overall student performance data, charters end up hiding the mediocrity of their instructional program with their enrollment practices. However, tests that show how much students learn over the course of a year clearly demonstrate that public school students learn more. This highlights the superiority of public school teaching vs. charter school teaching.
On Charters schools that attract parents with new futuristic looking buildings and facilities
You have to look at the quality of the educational personnel who are recruited to teach in those schools. There is no more important factor in student learning than the teacher. So if you have a school staffing and compensation model that does not give you the ability to recruit a critical mass of skilled teachers, it doesn’t matter what the building looks like, your students’ performance is going to be less than the student performance of the public school across the street whose brick and mortar might not match yours but who have seasoned professional educators teaching your children, and the test results show it.
On poor performing schools
We’re talking about a system here and we want to improve that system. What kind of model has shown itself to produce more high performing schools? The Public system has created high performing schools at a rate that is much higher than the charter model. So if you want to create a great system, why would you choose a model that has nine failures for every one success story? We need to look at the public model that produces far more success stories.
On the loss of half of CPS’s African American teachers
We’ve lost career path teachers–people who were in it for life. What we have now is this revolving door model that gives teaching candidates seven weeks of training which, for a teacher, is about as effective as getting seven weeks of training to become a doctor. So children are losing people who saw this as a profession. It takes a certain number of years to master a craft. We have a model here that does not create a critical mass of people who stay in the teaching profession long enough to master it. That subjects our children to being taught by a continuous stream of people who never get the kind of experience they need to master the act of teaching. It is unconscionable what we’re doing to our children.
Why did CPS choose not to recoup funds from banks who loaned CPS money without proper disclosure of overly high interest rates?
We need to look at the makeup of the investors and banks who are profiting from this, and their relationship with City Hall. The Tribune did a story showing 60 of Rahm Emanuel’s top 100 campaign contributors all got benefits from City Hall. When it came time to sacrifice, none of those campaign contributors were made to sacrifice; but now it’s teachers and students who have to sacrifice. The modus operandi of this administration has been to funnel taxpaper dollars toward bankers and investors. If [City Hall’s failure to recoup the funds from the banks] was an isolated incident I might say there’s a reasonable explanation for this. But it’s not isolated; it’s one investor and one banker after another–who’s connected to this mayor–that profits from out tax dollars. Take the preschool example I mentioned earlier: CPS took out a $17 million loan and committed to paying the investors back $34 million. So they’re going to just give them $17 million additional dollars. The catch is supposed to be that they’re only going to get the extra $17 million if the students who get pre-k outscore students who don’t get pre-k. Of course students who get pre-k will outscore students who don’t get it. That’s already well researched. It’s as if you go to your plumber and he says “it’s going to be $5,000,” and you say “I’ll give you $10,000 if it doesn’t leak.” Who is that irresponsible with their own money? But Emanuel will be that reckless and irresponsible with our tax dollars when they’re going to his campaign contributors. And who are those investors who are going to get those $17 million? Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust, and Pritzker–all are among Rahm Emanuel’s top 60 campaign contributors. So you have one relationship like that, after another, after another, after another, in which our tax dollars are being siphoned from the services that we’re supposed to receive and the services our students are supposed to receive and going toward an Emanuel campaign contributor’s profit margin.
On CPS High School principals finding a voice and speaking out against the expansion of charter schools.
It’s a good sign. More importantly we need to stand up against the expansion of these profit-based schools not just on the principle of funding, but on the principle that these schools are not good for our children. These schools are under-performing and they hire teachers who are not as skilled and qualified as the ones who are in public schools and the data bears it out. We have to begin to make that argument–that we are better, because we are. It would have been a tough argument to make to privatize our system several years ago but they continued to make it relentlessly and unceasingly. We have to have the same kind of tenacity and long-term perspective and involvement in order to turn the tide. I certainly think we can because all of the valid evidence is on our side. We just have to make sure that people are aware of that evidence.
Are you worried about there being retribution for the things you’ve been saying about the mayor and so forth?
I’m worried about something that’s far more important than my job. I just dropped my son off at Science Lab before coming here. He is a third grade Chicago Public Schools student. Some day he’ll be an adult Chicago resident. He will have to live in this city. He will have to live with the results of what we do and don’t do with our school system. He’s going to be fine in terms of his academics and his career, but he’s not going to inherit this city by himself. He’s going to inherent it with all of his classmates and all of his peers across this city. Twenty or thirty years from now this city will reflect the kind of investment we put into their education today. So I am far more afraid of future where we don’t invest in them than I am of them threatening my job.
To see the full interview, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP5vnppKfz4